I’m a pastor with depression. For years I thought I had to hide it. 

That was an eye-catching headline in a recent News & Ideas newsletter from Leadership Education at Duke Divinity. The headline was a link to a Sojourners article, and I read it with interest because we recently published an article in In Trust on theological schools partnering with psychology and social work programs.

The contributors to the In Trust article share that there is a growing need to prepare future church leaders to support others struggling with mental illness — and to tend to their own self-care.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness in any given year. In Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association says that 20 percent of the population “will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.”

Every leader of the church, regardless of vocation, will likely encounter people who suffer from mental illness (or may suffer themselves) and should therefore be prepared to address these issues.

The Sojourners article by the pastor with depression reflects this reality. The author, Jason Chesnut, a Lutheran, relays his experiences with mental illness and points to the continued stigma around mental illness in the church. He says that many well-meaning people try to help him using Scriptures like Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Chesnut prefers to point to the Gospel of Mark where we see Jesus in Gethsemane. He wonders, “If Jesus suffered with all humanity during the Passion narrative, wouldn’t that include mentally as well?”

Chesnut does not share if or how his time in seminary prepared him for his personal experiences with mental illness. But given the statistics, every school must consider how they are educating and nurturing their students for future roles in pastoring and responding to mental health issues.

For more information:

Read Jason Chesnut’s full commentary from Sojourners online. If you are affiliated with an In Trust Center member school, you can read the full text of the In Trust article titled “Schools of theology partner with psychology and social work programs.” 

To read more news from Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, check out News & Ideas online.